A bombshell stem cell discovery by Boston and Japanese scientists was withdrawn Wednesday from the journal that published the work — amid allegations of fraud and a tide of incredulity from outside scientists.
It is one of the highest-profile retractions of the last decade, and several stem-cell researchers said they are now convinced that the stunningly simple method for producing stem cells, reported in two papers in January, won’t work.
The journal Nature published a retraction notice Wednesday from the authors, including the Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientist who originated the idea and oversaw part of the work. They cited the results of a Japanese investigation that found evidence of scientific misconduct and listed five additional errors they had identified, including misrepresented or mislabeled images and “inexplicable discrepancies” that raise questions about how the cells were created.
“Ongoing studies are investigating this phenomenon afresh, but given the extensive nature of the errors currently found, we consider it appropriate to retract both papers,” the retraction notice states.
The authors apologized for the mistakes in the articles, writing, “These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole and we are unable to say without doubt whether the . . . phenomenon is real.”
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